The National Industrial Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, struck out a suit against the Federal Government instituted by a non-governmental organisation over a strike embarked on by resident doctors for weeks last year.
The plaintiff, Rights For Al International, had filed the suit in August 2021 to compel members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to call off the strike which crippled tertiary health institutions at the time.
Joined as co-defendants in the suit are the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD),Uyilawa Okhuaihesuya, chairman NARD, the Nigerian Medical and Dental Association, and the Minister of Health.
Others were the Federal Ministry of Health, Minister of Labour and Productivity and Attorney General of the Federation/ Minister of Justice.
A judge of the court, John Targema, whom the case was initially assigned to, had in a ruling on August 18, 2021, rejected the NGO’s ex parte application to order the doctors to stop the strike.
The substantive matter was slated for hearing before Benedict Kanyip, the president of the court, on Wednesday.
The applicant/claimant was, however, absent when the matter was called for hearing.
The first and second defendants’ counsel, U.Y Hassan-Dukku informed the court that he had filed a preliminary objection, memorandum of appearance and counter-affidavit which had been duly served.
He further stated that Order 38, Rule 3 (1) of the NICN Proceedings, 2017 be applied in the circumstance since the applicant was not in court and no good cause was given for the absence.
Mr Hassan-Dukku submitted that by the said provision, the matter should be struck out, given the fact that the defendants did not have counter-claim.
D.E Modozie, the seventh defendant ‘s counsel, on his part prayed that the applicant be given another opportunity, stating that the applicant counsel’s absence might be due to the ongoing fuel scarcity in the country.
The court in its ruling however said “the claimant is not in court, neither is its counsel and no reason is given for this action.
“The defendants also do not have counter- claim, I therefore agree with the first and second defendants’ counsel submission for the case to be struck out.
“The case is hereby struck out,” Mr Kanyip ruled.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report that the NGO, on August 19, 2021 through a motion ex-parte prayed the court to order NARD to direct its members who were on strike then to return to work.
The then vacation judge, Justice John Targema, after listening to the application, however, ruled that by Order 17, Rule 14 ( 5) of NICN proceedings 2017, the court can make or refuse to make the order sought, or may direct the motion to be made on notice to the parties affected.
The judge in addition ruled that the affected parties ought to be put on notice before a trial court could grant a restraining order.
He, therefore, made an order inviting the defendants on grounds of fair hearing.
The judge ordered that the motion be made on notice to the parties affected by the application.
He also directed that hearing notice be issued, served on the defendants and proof of service of the motion on notice and all originating processes on the defendants be filed in the case file
Mr Targema in addition ruled that a date would be fixed which would be determined by the president of the court who will reassign the file and both parties would be notified accordingly.
The matter which came up before Mr Kanyip, the president of the court , was however, struck as the NGO’s representatives and its lawyer, Okere Kingdom, were absent from court and no reason was given for their absence.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the strike which is the subject of the suit was called off as back as October last year.
The newspaper reported that the doctors had commenced the industrial action on August 2, 2021 following what it described as poor treatment of its members by both the federal government and some state governments.
The strike coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, leaving many worried that it could have serious consequences for the battle against the then third wave of the pandemic.
NARD is demanding, amongst other issues, the payment of COVID-19 treatment allowances in the absence of death-in-service insurance, having lost over a dozen of its members to the pandemic, while also protesting the shortage of manpower in public hospitals.
At the root of the strike action is the government’s constant failure to honour the agreements reached with NARD over its demands.
Series of meetings between the leaders of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), NARD, and government representatives also failed to resolve the issues after the striking doctors insisted they could not trust the government.
The strike was later called off following some marathon meetings with the government and the relevant unions.
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